Jenn Tamati - English Teacher, Poland
"I used to think I was going to have a straight foreward life. I thought I was going to know exactly what I wanted to do with myself, be good at it and enjoy it. It turned out it wasn’t that simple. So I decided since life threw a wrench into the works, I would too. That’s when I packed up and flew to Poland for a Gap Year with Lattitude Global Volunteering.
I arrived in Warsaw with 30 other volunteers not knowing what to expect of the next 5 months. I wasn’t sure how I was going to teach English to Polish speaking youths (who were considerably close to my age). When the time came for everyone to depart to their placements it started to settle in that I was in a strange country thousands of miles from home and was a bit overwhelming. It’s something you just have to take as it comes. I met my host family, was introduced to the school, began assisting with lessons and everything slowly but naturally fell into place. I never would of thought, but I really enjoyed teaching. By the end of my placement I was not only holding classes on my own, but relieving for teachers (not just from the English department).
The culture was amazing and everyone was really interested in mine. I was constantly asked to do the Haka, which I politely refused, but made up for it by singing a Waiata to 200 confused but appreciative 12-15 year olds. I picked up enough of the language to get along without a student or member of my host family translating, and still enjoy throwing a few Polish phrases around back home.
In terms of what I learnt about myself , it was a bit like re-organising my room. I rummaged through everything I had. Threw out the things that were no longer important, realised the things that were. Discovered some things I forgot I’d even had and was surprised they still worked. On my return home I came back with a fistfull of experience, a headfull of amazing memories and a long list of friends from all over the world who I was excited to one day revisit.
I could go on and on and tell you every detail of every place and person I connected with on my Overseas Gap Year but its not going to change the fact you are still sitting here reading this. You could know every fact and statistic about a culture but there is no higher understanding than being immersed in it. You thought you knew everything about yourself but you’ll see the real you when confronted with situtation you’ve never encountered. There is a big wide world out there. Go see it for yourself."